Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Best of 2014 (Albums & Gigs)

TOP 50 of 2014

*highlighted in red: reviewed albums, click the title*

Opeth is my favorite band and their quality transcends lists but to be fair, my favorite record of 2014 is the next one on the list! Pale Communion managed to be a great prog rock album, something that their previous one Heritage failed at.

1. Interpol - El Pintor
Probably my favorite alternative rock band, their 2 previous albums were flat compared to the usual quality they were used to with their classic debut and their excellent sophomore Antics. With El Pintor (anagram for Interpol), they're back with their best album since a while. I was pretty sad when their Montréal gig got reported due to the band being stucked in Buffalo due to the big snowstorm there.

2. Triptykon - Melana Chasmata
Tom G. Warrior is back with the second Triptykon and he's as mighty as ever. I probably like his new project more than his classic days of Celtic Frost if that's even possible. Crushing doom extreme metal with a real somber atmosphere.

3. Horrendous - Ecdysis 
2014's best death metal album, a great mix of old school death, melodic death, prog and technical death in a very potent formula.

4. Primordial - Where Great Men Have Fallen
Another great album from the Irish boys, they just can't write bad songs. 

5. Wovenhand - Refractory Obdurate
David Eugene Edwards' (formerly of 16 Horsepower) newest album, his alternative dark country/neo folk country is as good as ever and even includes some slight metallic influences.
6. Mastodon - Once 'Round the Sun
7. Domains – Sinister Ceremonies
8. Young and in the Way - When Life Comes to Death
9. Prajna - The Summer Eclipse
10. Swallowed – Lunarterial

12. Giant Squid - Minoans
13. Opium Warlords - Taste my Sword of Understanding
14. Mausoleum Gate – Mausoleum Gate
15. Ningen Isu - Burai Houjou
16. Gridlink - Longhena
17. Ogre - The Last Neanderthal
18. Lucifer's Fall - Lucifer's Fall
19. Emptiness – Nothing but the Whole
20. Teitanblood - Death
21. Mansion - 
The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol​.​1
23. Zaum - Oracles
24. Martyrdöd - Elddop
25. Sons of Crom – Riddle of Steel
26. Aureole - Alunar
27. Phillipe Katerine - Magnum
28. StarGazer - A Merging to the Boundless
29. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
30. Cretin - Stranger
31. Hail Spirit Noir – Oi Magoi
32. Barrabas - Messe pour un chien
33. ZOM  - Flesh Assimilation
34. Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain
35. Mantar – Death by Burning
36. Portrait – Crossroads
38. Incantation – Dirges of Elysium
39. Murmur - Murmur
40. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell - Check 'em before you wreck 'em
41. Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral
42. The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-Li
43. L'Ira del Baccano - Terra 42
45. Basalte- Vestige
46. Yob - Clearing The Path To Ascend
47. Phobocosm - Deprived
48. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
49. Slough Feg – Digital Resistance

Albums I haven't heard enough yet:
Spectral Lore - III
Furia - Nocel
Orange Goblin - Back from the Abyss
Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith
Dawnbringer – Night of the Hammer
Godflesh - World Lit Only by Fire
Morbus Chron - Sweven
Mansion - Uncreation

Disappointing albums of 2014 :Dead Congregation -Promulgation of the Fall
-A samey mess of tired old school death metal, a bitter disappointment after the genius approach of Graves of the Archangels.

Slough Feg – Digital Resistance
One of my favorite bands of all time released their weakest album to date. It's a confused unfocused album trying to mix their folky hard hittin' heavy metal with their sci fi progressive rock and their Thin Lizzy approach on the same album. While still good, it doesn't quite work.

Most anticipated albums of 2015 :

Enslaved – In Times
New Leeches of Lore
Aktor - Paranoia
Melechesh – Enki
Lord Fist - Green Eyleen

Chthe'ilist's debut full length

TOP 10 GIGS OF 2014

Blasphemy @RRROAAARRR 

1) Hooded Menace Read the review
2) Loop
3) RRROOOAAARRRR festival with Incantation, Blasphemy... Read the review
4) Wings of Metal with Holocaust, Blood Ceremony, Bolzer Read my review
5) Uncle Acid with Danava Read the review
6) Subrosa Read the review
7) The Ocean with The Atlas Moth 
8) Ulcerate with Phobocosm and Chthe'ilist Read the review
9) Amnesia Rockfest with Alice in Chains, Weezer, Meshuggah...
10) Zaum with Dopethrone Read the review
11) Mac Demarco with The Besnard Lakes and Solids

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Volahn - Aq'Ab'Al (2014/2015) / 93%

Pre-Columbian Darkness

Eduardo Ramírez is back with the newest Volahn album and the first full length since 2008. Proclaimed as the leader of the cult Black Twilight Circle, a being that can be considered to be the Californian equivalent to the Les Légions Noires. This man evolves in many like minded band and creates some of the most interesting American black metal currently being released. Inspired by the pre-hispanic cultures (look at this marvelous cover), this closed and mystic scene is an unique beast able to differentiate itself from the pack.

Alongside spiritual brothers like Odz Manouk or Blue Hummingbird on the Left, there's a very esoteric sound found in Volahn's music. The cultural identity of the band is tightly linked to its atmospheric purposes, you can definitely feel the historical weight of the Maya or Aztec civilizations in his music throughout classical guitars, subtle but enjoyable ambient and nature touches. Rich and with a very organic production, Aq'Ab'Al is a bulldozer of riffs and tremolos leads that are the bread and butter of this album. They make the ten plus minutes songs stand out and become brief, tremendous voyages into the heart of pre colonial America. Furthermore, Ramírez' sense of melody is pretty outstanding, he knows how to write guitar leads that are worth investing your hard earned money into this album instead of visiting the Latin America ruins (well, do both if you can, of course.)

Musically, it's a mix of many black metal scenes, some Norwegian hints here and there to go with the German (think Nagelfar), Polish or Greek scenes. It's intricate and fancy as hell but never forgets to unleash the evilness and occultism necessary in black metal (Christian black metal can go live with Scott Stapp and thrive with the words of god). Volahn is yet another proof that you don't need to constantly evoke the name of the fallen angel to create a worthwhile dark aura.

The thematic and musical approach really reminds of the gigantic Mesopotamian beast Melechesh who also walks their own ideological paths (I can't wait for their new album scheduled for February and making me wish it was 2015 already), Volahn akin to Ashmedi's seminal project, are able to compose intense, groundbreaking black metal with deep, relevant folkloric and cultural integrations. The use of the always colorful Spanish language obviously serves as a catalyst and pushes the execution of their will to a higher level.

I'm just discovering this circle but I'll surely investigate it since its vision is awesome. It's my sort of black metal, it's varied while being cohesive and has the sound quality that is the middle ground between raw and clean.

Highly recommended for black metal fans that want something midly adventurous while not treading on cheesy or saccharine territories.

Already out on tape on Crepúsculo Negro, to be released on CD and LP on Iron Bonehead in January 2015

Giant Squid - Minoans (2014) / 90%

“We will be forgotten, we will be lost”... 

Well, hopefully they won't be...

Giant Squid were always an odd beast (excuse the expression) in the metal ocean, it took them five years to release a follow up to the excellent The Ichthyologist but now Minoans has hits the waves and so far the response has been widely positive. Their blend of cello induced post/doom/atmospheric/whatever metal is definitely not for everyone but it's definitely for me.

This concept album is about (I hope you got it) the Minoan civilization. I was already hooked on the album before listening to it since history is one of my passions (I'm writing this review instead of finishing some papers, it's currently my last year of studies before becoming a history teacher, woo) and the superb cover art helped the whole thing. The Minoan civilization is an interesting subject for a concept album since it's one of the earliest ones to emerge in Europe and there's still many theories explaining its downfall. The most popular being the eruption of a nearby volcano which could had led to economic repercussions for the naval power located on the island of Crete and a sudden weakness against the continental menace of the Mycenaean civilization.

I feel the historical context is a little bit important to the understanding of the album since the contextual approach is more than lyrical, it's transposed with the rich musicality of this record. You can definitely hear the Greek influences created by both the instrumentation but also the choice of riffs, it's way more Greek than anything Septic Flesh did in the last fifteen years, let me you tell that. The band always had a sort of classical feel due to Jackie Perez Gratz's cello (well known for her contributions for Agalloch, Neurosis and many others) but I feel it's pushed to its apex here, it feels natural and it's simply another instrument being as important as the huge bass presence, the ethereal keys and the subtle but profoundly heavy guitars. Their songs are slow catchy dirges but they never really drag, only the opening title track is over six minutes. It's brooding and has the sense of urgency that can be related to the dramatic end of an era or a culture (listen to the ending of “Six Foot Waves”.) The cello really shines most of the time but the other musicians are all more than solid and they help Giant Squid's identity development. Indeed, the band doesn't sound like any others, they mix genres effortlessly into a very progressive formula that transcends labels.

I always liked ballads, I feel a band can prove its worth by dropping the tough act to compose something truly beautiful (see my favorite band Opeth with “To Bid You Farewell” or “Credence”), that's something they did with “The Pearl and the Parthenon”, sang by both Perez Gratz and Aaron John Gregory (vocals, guitars, artwork), it's harmonious and doesn't feel detached from the rest of the release like it's often the case with this kind of experimentation. The clean vocals they use are neither powerful nor excellent but they possess this sort of entrancing ability and they're very charismatic. Gregory is the lead singer but he's, most of the time, attended by the cellist who do all kind of back vocals. This adds a lot of depth to an already immensely rich and well produced album.

With its 43 minutes length, the album feels short (especially that it ends quite abruptly), its predecessor was 20 minutes longer and I feel the band could really shine by expanding their slow, desperate side. Their music remains weirdly catchy, smooth and heavy and it never reaches cheesy territory even though it would be easy to with a geeky concept like this one (see David Defeis' Virgin Steele.)

Impossible to classify, Minoans is without a doubt one of the best albums of 2014, ride the waves till you reach the shores of Crete or San Francisco, maybe the link between the band and its concept is the Mediterranean climate?

Serve with Feta cheese, olives and lots of wine.

Giant Squid on Facebook

Monday, 29 September 2014

Aureole - Alunar (2014) / 81%

The meanders of cosmic spiritual fortifications

The first release of this new project created by Markov Soroka (Eternium, Slow) is finally out after two or three years of arduous work and nobody could say that it's not well elaborated. The first demo songs that I was lucky to hear (unreleased) of the project sounded like Sargeist, a very melodic but still raw sort of black metal but the identity of the project changed during its gestation. As a young man, Soroka is kind of guilty of wearing his influences on his sleeves, for Eternium it was Dissection and Emperor, for Slow it was Esoteric, what is it this time around? Well, it's Darkspace and Alrakis! Nonetheless, he's a talented fellow and this excellent album proves it and it still brings his fair share of originality compared to his aforementioned projects.

One of the first things I've noticed is the fact that even though it's clearly an ambient black metal release, Aureole's music delivers the riffs and has an interestingly fast paced tempo. It doesn't mess around with its relatively brief duration for an album of its genre. It has sharp guitars often playing arpeggio riffs (see the exuberantly named Crusade of NGC 5128”) surrounded by a huge platter of keys and unlike the ubershitty “symphonic” golem of Wintersun, it never sounds cheap, rushed or cheesy, fuck off Jari, go play with your toys. There's a lot of non metal influences, some coldwave, some synthpop, I mean, I can definitely hear the mythic Tangerine Dream in there too. The five somber compositions are thoroughly helped by the more than competent production done solely by Soroka himself. DIY or perish! It's crafted with care and it sounds majestic and natural. The songs are lengthy as you would expect from an ambient black metal project but they never really drag your corpse into oblivion, it's a smooth ride into the meanders of space and beyond.

The instrumentation remains minimal but the keys (no midi, guys!) are impressive and they're well mixed to the simple but catchy drums and the repetitive guitars. It feels old, like if late 70s electronica suddenly decided to become heavier. The combination of the different elements has been efficient

Like on Eternium's debut, there's still a concept story underneath it all, it involves space, castles, powerful beings and similar subjects but it's told by the immersing music instead of a lyrical identity where everything needs to be said. To illustrate that point, the 10 minutes instrumental outro “Alunar, Decrepit...” feels like you're in an empty castle dangerously inclined on a cliff surrounded by goodhearted spirits or somewhere in space where you don't quite belong. Furthermore, it's sort of mixing a medieval feel with sci fiction and fantasy realms but weirdly, it belongs together.

Markov's vocals (usually not his strong suit) are buried deep down the mix when they're actually present at all. This works with both the theme and the songwriting found on the album. You're not supposed to be heard in space, it would waste the dark fun of the whole thing. Not exactly raw, Aureole will please most people looking primarily for atmosphere in their black metal, it's rich & subtle music that will lead you astray for a moment while you reflect about your past deeds.

And goddamn, this cover art is superb, press that on vinyl already!

If you're hungry while travelling through space, here's the edible version Oreole!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Witch Mountain - Mobile of Angels (2014) / 82%

To the witchmobile!

Following their superb 2012 album Cauldron of the Wild, the Portland, Oregon fourtet comes back with this new album and while it's a bit of a letdown compared to their previous opus (one of my favorite albums of 2012), it's still a high quality album from one of the most pertinent doom band of the their generation.

In a way, Mobile of Angels doesn't seem to be as rooted in traditionalism than their previous one was. Not that the band didn't have its own originality beforehand, of course, since they had plenty but I feel the band really developed their sound to its peak on this album. The main idiosyncrasy is their singer, Uta Plotkin is once again delivering all the goods, she's even better than Santa Claus at her job. I already said that she's the best singer in metal in my previous review and I stand by my word, her powerful vocals are equally bluesy and profound and she shines literally everywhere. I'll admit I'm not a big fan of her harsh vocals (only on one song, “Can't Settle”) but that's because we can't hear her beautiful cleans while she's doing them! I guess there's beauty in darkness and anger. 

I was pretty much devastated (okay, maybe not but I like hyperboles) when they announced Uta's departure from the band after their current North American tour with Nik Turner's Hawkwind (at least I'll get to see them for the third time.) Even though she wasn't a founding member of Witch Mountain, for me she's been the spiritual core of it since their return with South of Salem in 2011, she's what made the band truly distinguishable and pushed their boundaries to their maximum capabilities. I have no idea how the band to cope with this lost, in my opinion if there's currently someone in doom metal who is irreplaceable, it was her. I guess she'll concentrate her efforts on the excellent experimental project Aranya so everything isn't lost!
The guitars of Rob Wrong are heavy and they possess the right amount of bluesy distortion force to dent Steve Rogers' shield in the purest American tradition. I also expect him to return to the microphone as his vocals weren't bad at all on their debut album already more than a decade ago. Even if subtlety isn't the band's strong suit, I mean his solos are basically blues improvisation (and that's obviously awesome), he still managed to impress with his restraint on the extremely touching “The Shape Truth Takes”. The rhythm section of Nathan Carson (who's also an important promoter and all around cool dude) and newcomer Charles Thomas (coming from the cool stoner/doom band Blackwitch Pudding) is effective while not flashy, don't get me wrong they're noticeable enough but I think the album is so rightfully mixed that it's easier to see it as whole and hard to dissect like a rare specimen.

The album is a bit too short for my taste especially if it's Uta's last moment with the Mountain, I wanted at least fifty minutes of goodness! It's composed of long songs (seven to ten minutes) except the title track which is some sort of experimental soft interlude. The album starts and ends with its two best songs but I think the three in the middle are a bit weaker. “Psycho Animundi” has a very impressive calm part, super heavy riffs and the wailing vocals of Uta, pretty much everything that made the band a good one. Unfortunately, the longest track “Your Corrupt Ways” is kind of boring and drags, it's not as good as “Aurelia” on the previous album. Mobile doesn't have huge catchy numbers like “Wing of the Lord” or “Shelter”, it's exploring other forms of sensibilities and it's darker and brooding.

All in all, it's a good end for the Plotkin era of Witch Mountain but I wish the album had more content to offer, it feels pretty slim in my opinion, two more songs would had been ideal for me. Perhaps to showcase all the abilities the band has been known to have. Even though my appetite is still there, this album still shows a level of quality songwriting that puts them in the higher echelons in the doom metal world.

Embarquons dans la Witchmobile!

Suite à leur superbe troisième album intitulé Cauldron of the Wild, le quartet de Portland, Oregon récidive avec leur nouvel album. Malgré que je considère que Mobile of Angels n'est pas aussi fort que son prédécesseur (qui était un de mes albums fétiches de 2012), cet album reste néanmoins un opus de qualité d'un des bands doom métal les plus pertinents de sa génération.

D'une façon, cet album ne semble pas autant enraciné dans le traditionalisme qu'auparavant. Pas que Witch Mountain n'ait jamais été un groupe recelant d’originalité, loin de là, ils en ont toujours eu leur lot, mais je sens qu'ils ont atteint le sommet de leur développement ici. La particularité principale des Américains reste leur chanteuse, la magnifique Uta Plotkin enchaîne nous offrent encore une fois des cadeaux vocaux, une vraie Mère Noël de tout ce qui est lent et ténébreux. J'ai déjà dit qu'elle était une des meilleures voix du métal dans ma critique précédente et mon opinion est inchangée, sa livraison orale est d'une puissance pure et inégalée et est nourrie de blues (penser à Janis Joplin ici) d'une profondeur immense et elle brille presque partout. Je vais admettre que je ne suis pas le gros fan de ses vocales « harsh » (seulemement sur une chanson, « Can't Settle », mais c'est probablement parce qu'on ne peut entendre sa merveilleuse voix claire pendant ce moment, car objectivement sa voix plus extrême passe le test. Il a toujours de la beauté dans l'obscurité et la colère.

Je fus dévasté (d'accord, peut-être pas, mais j'aime les hyperboles) lorsqu'il ont annoncé le départ de Plotkin après leur tournée nord-américaine en compagnie de Nik Turner's Hawkwind (à voir à Montréal en compagnie de nos héros doom locaux Cauchemar.) Bien qu'elle n'était pas une membre fondatrice du groupe, elle a été selon moi l'esprit enchanteur de montagne de la sorcière depuis leur retour en 2011 avec South of Salem. Selon moi, c'est elle qui rendait la musique du band reconnaissable et qui poussait leur frontières créatives vers leur paroxysme. Je ne sais pas comment cette perte sera comblée, si il existait quelqu'un d'irremplaçable dans le doom, c'était bien Uta. Elle va nécessairement se concentrer sur Aranya, son projet expérimental, donc tout n'est pas perdu!

Les guitares de Rob Wrong sont pesantes en pépère et possèdent la dose parfaite de distorsion bluesy pour entailler le bouclier de Steve Rogers d'une façon ultra Américaine. Je prévois qu'il va peut-être retourner au micro, car il chantait avant l'arrivée d'Uta et ses vocaux n'étaient pas mal du tout. Bien que la subtilité n'est pas un de leur point fort, les solos de Wrong sont bien souvent empreints d'une sonorité improvisé (et c'est pas mal plaisant), il est quand même capable d'impressionner avec sa retenue à plusieurs endroits comme la touchante pièce « The Shape Truth Takes » et ses moments calmes. La section rythmique de Nathan Carson (un important promoteur et agent d'artistes, un gars pas mal cool overall) et Charles Thomas (le bassiste du trio doom/stoner Blackwitch Pudding, à découvrir simplement pour leur nom cocasse) fonctionne bien malgré qu'elle n'attire pas l'attention. Je dirais que c'est la faute au mix de l'album qui est si bien faite qu'il est difficile de disserter des éléments précis de ce spécimen. Les musiciens se complimentent bien et créent un tout cohérent.

L'album est un peu trop court selon moi surtout que c'est le dernier moment avec Uta, je voulais au moins une cinquantaine de minutes de bon stuff! Mobile of Angels est composé de longues pièces (7 à 10 minutes) exception faite de la chanson titre qui est une sorte d'interlude expérimental et douce qui m'a rappelé le duo québécois Menace Ruine. L'album commence et termine avec ses deux meilleures chansons, mais je crois que les trois au milieu sont relativement plus faibles. « Psycho Animundi » possède une section calme vraiment géniale et démontre tout ce que le band est capable de faire du haut de ses 9 minutes. Malheureusement la plus longue chanson de l'album « Your Corrupt Ways (est quand même ennuyeuse et traîne en longueur, elle n'est pas aussi bonne que la chanson « Aurelia » sur la l'album précédent. Mobile souffre du fait qu'il n'a pas de gros morceaux catchy comme « Wing of the Lord » ou « Shelter », mais il explore d'autres sensibilités et il est plus sombre et introspectif.

Finalement, c'est une bonne fin pour l'ère Uta Plotkin de Witch Mountain même si je souhaitais que l'album aille plus de contenu, c'est quand même mince, deux chansons de plus m'auraient rassasié et aurait pu démontrer l’entièreté de leur personnalité. Malgré que mon appétit n'est pas entièrement comblée, le niveau de composition de l'album place le groupe dans les hautes sphères du doom. Je ne sais pas trop quoi l'avenir leur réserve, c'est à voir!

Witch Mountain

 Also published on Ondes Chocs.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Horrendous – Ecdysis (2014) / 97%

The death metal apex of 2014

The debut album of this American trio (East Coast) The Chills was pretty good but I thought Horrendous was lacking something necessary to distinguish themselves from the impressive wave of old school death metal bands. With their second full length, a brilliant tour de force, they'll gain an enviable position on the worldwide metal map or at least, gain an immeasurable dose of respect!

The thrashy side of Horrendous has mostly disappeared and to take its place, the band has integrated an healthy quantity of Swedish melodic death metal (think of Dark Tranquillity's The Gallery or early At the Gates) with their emotional but complex guitar leads and their growled, deep but appreciable vocals. Yes, their sound might be more accessible but it's not a marketing scheme to gain the fan base of Arch Enemy or the likes, it's simply a more illustrious sound akin to the psychedelic progression of the modern Swedish tenors of Tribulation and Morbus Chron.

So, yes a progressive death metal that is widely psychedelic could scare some purists but I think their new formula had a very mild transformation. We were already able to hear some tendencies on their debut album but here, they're revealed for everyone to see. Let's elaborate on the ingredients the musicians used to cook us Ecdysis (this term means the sloughing of skin of Arthropod and the likes.) Ok, man, not really appetizing, sorry for this metaphor!

Firstly, the meager addition of clean vocals (listen to “Nepenthe”) adds a wonderful side to the band and it's definitely an aspect I'd like them to explore thoroughly. It always seem that they're into this big occult rock trend of the last decade or so. Anyway, 99% of the time, their vocals are of primitive death metal delivery kind (think of Morbid Angel or Deceased) and they fucking rock.

Secondly, their compositions contain (mixed with the Gothenburg influence) some fusion touches à la Focus (the Cynic album, obviously) or even some Atheist. The two progressive death giants are really present here! Listen to “Pavor Nocturnus” and check out these old school Paul Masvidal inspired riffs!

Thirdly, we have two instrumental interludes and they made me lose my composure a little. They serve as little haven of peace between the hard hittin' moments of the album. The first one “The Vermillion” reminded me of Opeth (remember “Requiem” or “Patterns in the Ivy”) and the second “When the Walls Fell” is pretty much a heavy metal piece garnished with a juicy guitar solo.

Nevertheless, don't be scared, it's still an extreme metal offering. The tempos are fast but Horrendous aren't afraid of slowing things down and offer heavy riffs (see “Resonator”). It's still a band with a very solid death metal core and their evolution hasn't toned down their essence that much yet. In my opinion, they added the right amount of new stuff to make an almost perfect album.

It's high caliber material and it's really goddamn fresh, I'm pretty sure it will become a classic in the decade to come like most of what Dark Descent Records is releasing nowadays. They're choosing the best of black and death has to offer. The 43 minutes album (the optimal length of a death metal album) has its fair share of memorable tracks but let's use “The Stranger” as its best cut, the first song on the album could almost be considered death/doom if I stretch my genre classification a little. The production is wise (clean or rough at the appropriate moments), the bass and the drums are subtle but grasping and the guitars are alternating between fruity & clear and vicious and visceral.

An essential album and a big surprise for 2014 which is without a doubt a great year for death metal with the releases of excellent albums by Teitanblood, Domains and Incantation.


Le sommet du death metal en 2014

Malgré que j'avais apprécié le début The Chills du trio Américain (côte est), il manquait un petit quelque chose pour les distinguer de la vague impressionnante de bands s'inspirant du death metal old school. Avec leur deuxième long jeu, un tour de force génial, ils vont se positionner sur la carte métal mondiale ou du moins, gagner une dose de respect incommensurable.

Le côté thrash d'Horrendous a essentiellement disparu pour laisser la place à une grosse dose de death métal mélodique Suédois (penser ici à The Gallery de Dark Tranquillity ou au vieil At the Gates) avec les solos de guitares émotionnelles, mais complexes et les vocaux grognés, profonds, mais agréables. Oui, leur son est relativement plus accessible, mais ce n'est pas une stratégie marketing frauduleuse pour gober les supporteurs d'Arch Enemy, c'est simplement un son plus distingué qui s'apparente, encore une fois, aux progressions psychédéliques des deux ténors modernes de Suède que sont Tribulation et Morbus Chron.

Donc, oui un album de death progressif autant psychédélique pourrait faire peur à certains puristes du genre, mais je considère que la nouvelle formule a subit un choc transitionnelle en douceur. On pouvait déjà entendre quelques tendances de démarcation sur leur premier opus, mais ils sont relevées au grand jour ici. Élaborons sur les ingrédients qu'ils nous ont dénicher pour nous cuisiner Ecdysis (terme signifiant la mue des insectes, crustacés ou arachnides.) Pas vraiment appétissant en fin de compte, désolé pour cette métaphore!

Premièrement, le maigre ajout de voix claires hypnotiques (écouter « Nepenthe ») ajoute un côté formidable et c'est définitivement un aspect que le groupe aurait intérêt à développer! Cela m'a même semblé inspiré de la mode rock occulte de la dernière décennie. 99% du temps, les vocaux sont des vocaux death primitif (voir Morbid Angel ou Deceased) qui fessent.

Deuxièmement, les compositions recèlent (en plus de l’influence de Göteborg) de touches (presque) fusion à la Focus de Cynic ou d'Atheist, les deux géants Américains qui ont fait les beaux jours du death progressif des années quatre-vingt-dix sont bien présents! Écouter « Pavor Nocturnus » pour entendre ces riffs à la Paul Masvidal d'antan!).

Troisièmement, nous avons deux interludes instrumentaux venant décontenancer l'auditeur et servent leur rôle de havres de paix entre les moments plus robustes de l'album. La première « The Vermillion » rappelle Opeth (se souvenir de « Requiem » et « Patterns in the Ivy ») et la deuxième « When the Walls fell » est sensiblement une pièce heavy métal traditionnel ornée d'un solo juteux.

Toutefois, n’ayez crainte, c'est encore du métal extrême que nous offre les Américains. Les tempos peuvent être très rapides, mais Horrendous n'a pas peur de ralentir et offre des gros riffs pesants (voir « Resonator ».) C'est encore un groupe qui a un noyau death métal très solide et l'évolution qu'il a subit n'a pas encore réussit à en édulcorer l'essence au maximum. Selon moi, ils ont ajouté suffisamment de nouvelles influences pour créer un album presque parfait.

C'est du matériel de haut calibre et d'une rare fraîcheur qui deviendra sans nul doute un classique du genre dans la décennie à venir, comme la plupart des albums sortis par l'excellent label Dark Descent Records qui ne fait que choisir le meilleur du death et du black métal ces temps-ci. L'album d'une durée de 43 minutes (durée optimale pour un album death métal) contient son lot de chansons mémorables, mais notons « The Stranger » qui ouvre le bal et qui pourrait presque être considéré comme death/doom. La production est judicieuse (propre ou rugueuse , la basse et la batterie sont subtils, mais poignants et les guitares alternent entre fruitées, claires et vicieuses et viscérales.

Un album essentiel et une énorme surprise pour 2014 qui est sans nul doute une année digne de Satan avec la sortie d'excellent album death métal par Teitanblood, Domains et Incantation. 

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Also posted on Ondes Chocs

Monday, 1 September 2014

Wings of Metal 2014 Review / August 29th and 30th @Katacombes, Montréal with The Skull, Holocaust, Blood Ceremony, Bölzer, Dream Death and more!

All live pictures by Wayne William Archibald unless credited otherwise.

Day 1


The first day of the festival could be summed up by the word “occult” but the atmosphere was far from being that way. It was very cordial, without pretension and musicians and fans alike were meldling in the great and cosy Katacombes on Saint-Laurent boulevard. Out of the six bands

Phobocosm are local death metal heroes so I was already widely familiar with their stuff as I've seen them live three times. I decided to save my strength for the rest of the weekend! They'll release their debut album in late September (Toronto and Montréal) if you like your death metal to be inspired by Immolation and Incantation!

Part 1: New York Menace

Occultation was then the first band on my schedule. I enjoyed their set back in 2012 with the superb lineup of Cauchemar, Borrowed Time, Metalian and Demontage (many members of these bands were in the attendance of this edition of Wings of Metal!) but I thought their debut album Three & Seven was a bit lackluster. Their upcoming one is quite excellent so I was expecting a good set from these guys. Their blend of occult doom mixed with some black elements (courtesy of their guitarist Ed Miller, leader of Negative Plane.) I really like their riffs and the prominent bass of this black clad blond sorceress but the vocals were really mediocre this time around, the singer had sound issues and she didn't sound good at all. Miller sang one of the songs and his clean vocals were excellent so I don't really know what happened, maybe it was simply a bad day? I really dig these guys no matter what and I was happy that they replaced the decent but nothing special Irish band Zom. Follow these guys and don't forget to check out their new album Silence in the Ancestral House when it will be released in October.

7,5 or 8 leather jackets out of 10

Natur were next with their awesome NWOBHM inspired heavy metal garnished with some doom metal here and there. I've seen their previous Montréal gig (with the mediocre Voor) and it was very cool to see them again and this time, it was the full fledged band and not session members (the singer/guitarist and bassist weren't there the last time). Tooth Log (session drummer for Occultation) played two sets in a row but he's a young dude who lifts so no problem there! Natur has awesome leads, energetic riffs and a good albeit simple vocal presence. They have an upcoming album scheduled for this year, I believe

8 “old metal” out of 10

Part 2: Kvlt Swiss Offering

Bölzer were probably one of the most expected band of the festival and with good reasons. The Swiss duo (guitarist/vocalist and a drummer) played more than one hour (so yeah, all their discography and some new stuff that was never played life before.) It's pretty awesome to see a band generating so much hype without a full length album out, it means that they must be doing a lot of things the right way. Their black/death metal sound (albeit with clear influences from European legends like their local heroes of Celtic Frost or Bathory) is mixed with well thought dissonant modern influences and this combination creates an unparalleled atmospheric wall of sound. I thought that the screeching feedback between the songs was beyond annoying but I guess it was part of their game. Even without a bass player, the duo is still quite impressive and I believe the release of their debut album will cement their status as one of the most important band of their generation. Great merch (I got the sparkling lime round patch with lightnings on it!), interesting personas, great music, Bölzer has everything to become big and their two sets at the latest Maryland Death Fest proved that.

8,5 pagan sunwheels tattoos out of 10
Pic by Yannick Marchand

Part 3: Trad doom (old and new)

Blood Ceremony were supposed to play the first edition of Wings of Metal last year but their singer Alia O'Brien got sick and they had to cancel. The Toronto band plays Montréal often but it's always a joy when I see them (third time already). This was probably the best set I've seen, they played a varied set encompassing their three full lengths (see the setlist) and I was more than happy that “Lord Summerisle” (sang by their bassist Lucas Gadke) was featured as it's my favorite track from their latest album The Eldritch Dark . Their fifty minutes or so set was like butter on bread, it was nice and the whole band was in great shape. Alia was moving a lot with her fringe decorated vest and her flute and keyboard skills are up through the roof.

8,5 magicians out of 10

The Skull were the headliners of this evening and they rocked hard. Composed of three ex members of the seminal American doom band Trouble, they're in my opinion the real deal since the original singer Eric Wagner is with them. Their performance was divided between two sets, the first being the whole Psalm 9 (“Assassin” was so good!) album and the second being other songs including some new ones from the upcoming debut of the band. While I like their dual guitar approach and their fast paced formula, their gig was a bit redundant from time to time but that's probably just me being a grump who likes slow stuff! Their two guitarists were really damn good, no need to have Franklin and Wartell since they released a sub-par album with Trouble last year. Wagner killed it. He was boozing a lot on and off the stage and its declination of Christian (but dark) lyrics was quite powerful even though he's halfway through his fifties!

Two great sets by some legendary musicians, it was an honor to see one of the doom metal forefathers play in my city.

8,5 lord is our saviour out of 10

Day 2

My anticipation for the second day was greater since it was the first time I was gonna see any of the seven bands featured on the bill. The show started early at 18:00 and I was there to see the first band! The gig was a bit more varied this time and it had diverse atmospheres that were appropriately combined.

Part 1: North American Venomesque & thrashy heavy/speed metal

Gatekrashör from Calgary, Alberta opened the gig and they rocked hard. They were perhaps the only band I decided not to check out before the festival as it's always fun to have some surprises. The traditional heavy metal melded with speed metal. They studied their shit thoroughly since you can definitely hear the fun silliness of Metalucifer, I mean they have nicknames like Steel Avenger and song titles like “Heavy Metal Rangers”. They only have one guitarist but he fucking shreds. Their singer is fucking awesome and has a bone necklace and belches between the songs, that's a perfect frontman in the purest Piledriver tradition and while his range is nothing impressive, he's rough, more than adequate and he's an awesome front man.

8 hevy metal 'rills out of 10

Bat (believe it or not, they're apparently the first and only band called Bat in the metal universe) were pretty cool. A speed metal band formed by the leader of Municipal Waste and the guitarist of the up and coming heavy metal band Volture, the power trio was impressive and their fast compositions were nice to hear. Their drummer (Felix Griffin, formerly of DRI) couldn't cross the border so they used Al Biddle (Chainbreaker, ex-Cauldron) as he was in town, he learned the songs in a day to my drum noob ears, he was still very tight! They played a Venom cover of “Live like an Angel (Die like a Devil)” for the few who wondered who was their main influence. These guys are there to play what they want, it's fast and fun like it should be.

7,5 bat signals out of 10

Part 2: Ethereal Doom Moment

The Canadian epic doom band Funeral Circle played my most anticipated gig of the festival, their doom inspired by the likes of Solstice and Solitude Aeternus is simply awesome. Jean-Pierre Abboud (singer of the excellent American heavy band Borrowed Time) is now their vocalist and he's by far the best one they ever had. He came on stage wearing this hooded monk robe and sang the first song with it before reappearing dressed with his Saint Vitus leather jacket! The two guitarists were great at creating interesting landscapes full of slow and faster riffs and intricate leads. Their leader recently moved to Montréal so it will be fun to have another local doom band than Cauchemar!

Read my review for their self titled full length: Click me!
9,5 black colossus out of 10
Photo by Carolina Vanegas
Part 3: Pittsburgh Crushing Kvlt Doom Duo

3.1: Death doooooooooom!
Up next were the American cult death/doom band Derkéta widely known to be one of the first and only all female death metal group but nowadays their drummer is a man! They were decent but Sharon (guitar, vocals) had a sore throat and her vocals were almost inaudible, this plagued the set for me unfortunately. They played a good mix of old and new stuff (including a new song called “Darkness Fades Life” and their slow to mid paced crushing demeanor was pleasing to see.

8 metal goddesses out of 10
Sharon Bascovsky, badass death metal lady

3.2: Thrash dooooooooooom!
Well known for their seminal 1987 album “Journey Into Mystery”, Dream Death reformed recently and released an excellent sophomore album. Their set was a good mix of two tracks from this album and the classics from their debut including “Black Edifice”, “Sealed in Blood” and “Dream Death”. Their Celtic Frost inspired melting pot of extreme metal is awesome and they sound more like the Swiss band than Triptykon ever will. It was also very cool to see Mike Smail play, he was the drummer on one of my favorite albums of all time (Cathedral's “Forest of Equilibrium”.) I had a great time with this bunch of veterans who still has the passion to play metal like when they were in the early twenties.

9 feasts of the living out of 10

Part 4: Old School Heavy!

3.1: The French speedsters of ADX
For their first time in North America, the classic French band played almost all of its excellent debut album “Exécution” starting the set with “Déesse du crime” and ending it with “Caligula”. It was pretty much the perfect location for them to play in the new world since they're a French speaking band, they even got offered a Québec flag with their logo on it and they were clearly touched by the gift. Their guitars were mixed a bit too softly but their sound was mostly fine, it was catchy and fun, their choruses were by far the most memorable of the festival. CALIGULA! CALIGULA!

8,5 cousins from the old continent out of 10
Thanks to my buddy Antoine Desgagnés for the setlist

3.2: The classic NWOBHM of Holocaust
The last band of the two day festival (before the after gig of Sunday that I didn't attend) was Holocaust from Scotland. I knew they were gonna play the whole The Nightcomers album (due to Annick Giroux's request) album beforehand but I was hoping from some songs from their underrated progressive years (especially some from Covenant or The Courage to Be) and while I only got (“Dance into the Vortex” from their The Sounds of Souls EP ) it was a great set and I understand they wanted to please the traditional fans first and foremost. “Death and Glory” still has one of the best riffs ever and “Heavy Metal Mania” is just so fun. John Mortimer dedicated the aforementioned prog song to the memory of Denis D'Amour of Voivod while Michel Langevin and Denis Bélanger were in the crowd. The guitar tone was spectacular and the rhythm section was optimal, they had one of the best sound I heard at the Katacombes, the vocals were crystal clear and the solos were masterful. A great way to end the two days of madness!

9 “I got heavy metal music in my blood” out of 10

It was a very great festival and possibly the apex of my metal summer. I already can't wait to see what Annick (singer of Cauchemar if you didn't know) will get for the third edition in 2015. My fingers are crossed for Slough Feg personally but I'm sure it won't disappoint.  I have nothing more to say, really... Oh perhaps, look at this useless chart I made because I'm a nerd!